The Leader Column

It can't be said often enough: mid-sized firms are not dead. For a decade it's been fashionable to predict their demise (medium-sized bad, global doubleplusgood), yet despite everything, clients seem to like them.
Conventional wisdom has it that mid-sized firms will be squeezed in a downturn by the global firms on one side and niche firms on the other. But that rather depends on the firm. Just think about the panel reviews this year. Last week, The Lawyer revealed that BA opted to bring Addleshaw Booth & Co onto its preferred list. Earlier this year, Vivendi opted for a range of City and regional players for its new panel, including Macfarlanes, Theodore Goddard, Pinsent Curtis and Beachcroft Wansbroughs. And Virgin's new panel was stuffed with mid-sized firms.
If you turn to page 16 for our review of the year, you will see that in many cases, mid-sized firms have shown an impressive capacity for invention. There's Barlow Lyde & Gilbert, everybody's favourite professional negligence defendant lawyers, which took over IT boutique Duncombes to open in Oxford and is quietly limbering up on outsourcing and corporate work. There's the evergreen Macfarlanes, which won Law Firm of the Year at The Lawyer Awards in June for being able to tune into clients' needs, as well as sustaining an enviable partnership ethos. Or the now fearsomely focused Rowe & Maw, which may become a transatlantic force if the Mayer Brown & Platt merger goes through.
Meanwhile, Hammonds managed to sort out France and Germany, open in Hong Kong, swallow up sports boutique Townleys and asset finance boutique Wilde & Partners – and all within a year of its merger. Travers Smith Braithwaite showed its Continental ambitions by opening in Germany and snaring Karl Pilny from Couderts' Berlin office. Ince & Co – traditionally one of the most conservative firms in the City – made some serious investment, raiding a Hamburg firm to start up its German operation and last week taking Constant & Constant's Paris office to set up in France. And of course, you can't forget Withers, which managed to pull off a transatlantic merger as well as convert to a UK LLP.
Do these firms look like they're doomed? Hardly. They may fall into the unfashionable mid-sized category, but all have taken steps to make themselves compelling propositions in their markets. All together now: “It ain't the size that matters, it's the management.”
Nadolig llawen.